Colonialism’s Losers – The Poor Whites
President Zuma's Bethlehem Visit 2008
In March, 2010, South Africa’s President Zuma’s made his third visit to a poor white Afrikaner informal settlement in Bethlehem, Pretoria West. Many people were surprised by the fact that such a community existed believing that all whites benefited socially and economically from Apartheid. This phenomenon is not unique to South Africa and examples of European hardship and poverty can be found in just about all the colonies of all nations even during the height of colonial power.
This should not be surprising at all. European working class people were the work horse of the ‘age of discovery’ and the fodder of many of the new settlements that sprung up over the new colonies. These were people desperate to seek out new lives and make their fortunes and if there was an inadequate supply, the ruling rich classes found a way man their overseas processions.
The British proclamation of 1625 allowed for the selling of Irish political prisoners as labourers to English planters settling in the West Indies. This policy which started some 200 years of Irish slavery resulted in a large forced Irish diaspora in the Caribbean and New England. Nearly 70% of the small Caribbean Island of Montserrat’s population were Irish in the 1637 census and it is still known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean due to its high Irish descendant population and the high incidence of ‘red hair’. In all some 300,000 Irish people are estimated to have been affected by this policy. Gradually, the Irish slaves were replaced by African slaves and for some time these slaves were kept side by side. History shows that being a descendant of a slave confers poverty on many generations to follow and it is likely that not many of these Irish descendants became rich and powerful. Later generations of Irish immigrants especially to the United States fared better.
Exporting the undesirables was not limited to the Irish. During the 18th century some 50,000 British convicts were also sent to the penal colonies in the Americas, some under a system of indentured labour. After the American Revolution, convicts were then shipped to the new Australian territories. The British were not the only ones to ship out the convicts, France and the Netherlands also used the system. Many of those shipped to the colonies did not make it back to their homeland. Many stayed to work on, some would have moved to cities and towns to seek better working conditions, better wages and probably mostly stayed poor working class.
The poor’s circumstances in Europe and sometimes working class ambition allowed the practise of indentured labour to flourish. In return for passage to a new life, food, clothing and shelter, millions of people sold themselves or others for a limited period between 5 and 7 years into virtual slavery (see In Search of Pastures New aka the Poor Man’s Burden). Indentured labour is one of the primary means by which the European populations in the new American colonies were increased. In the early days at the end of the indentured period, a small payment of some sort was made. In some cases it was even a piece of land. How many of the millions of released indentured servants went on to be large estate holders or grew a fortune is likely to be small. It is more likely that they remained working, albeit for higher wages or later in the colonial period moved to the cities and towns to seek better paid conditions – adding to the growing white working classes of the colonies.
It is likely that the new working classes were those employed to manage the growing African slave populations in the Americas. They would have been the slave drivers and plantation overseers. As slavery was abolished, a new black underclass formed not only in the countryside but in the cities where many freed slaves moved to seek paid work. The competition to the white working classes will have prompted the racist and restrictive practices that sought to protect the white supremacy. However, having that protection did not necessarily entail lack of poverty. Many white people remained poor, particularly in the rural areas.
The Rhodes Colossus: Caricature of Cecil John Rhodes
Indentured labour may have been one escape from poverty but military service was a much longer tradition. The foot soldiers of pre-colonial and colonial eras were deliberately recruited from the poorer sections of societies. The Officers and the colonial civil servants may have come from the higher echelons of European societies but it was those seeking a way out that bulked the numbers. Both the Dutch East India Company and British South African Company, commercial companies with Royal charters, both maintained private armies and police forces. The recruits were originally recruited at home but later included indigenous people. In the case of Cecil John Rhodes’ British South African Company, soldiers were offered land after service in what was later to become Rhodesia. If the diseases did not kill them, many of these men traded their land for a few dollars to spend in the bars and brothels of frontier towns like Bulawayo. Many died poor in the despair of broken promises. The land eventually became large rolling estates in the hands of the rich and powerful few.
Nothing fires the poor’s imagination as the thought of a quick fortune. From the early Brazil Gold Rush in Minas Gerais in 1695 where nearly half of Brazil’s non-ethnic population ended living around the fields, through several US rushes such as the California Gold Rush (1848–1855) which brought some 300,000 people to California and the population tripling Australian Victorian gold rush was a between 1851 and the late 1860s, the poor have flocked to seek an escape. There are numerous stories of people who found and kept, found and lost their fortunes but there are many more of those who failed and died seeking their out the riches. Gold was not the only allure, precious stones such as diamonds called out to those fortune seekers, the most famous being that of South Africa’s Kimberley Mine in 1871. Localised fortune rushes continue to this day. A recent Diamond rush happened during the economic downturn in the modern state of Zimbabwe, only stopped by Government intervention. The output of which is currently challenging the established Kimberley process with diamonds from the Marange Diamond fields.
The fortune rushes attracted all kinds of people and from all corners of the world. In many places different races worked side by side in seeking out their fortunes. It is interesting to see that slowly but surely the mines if they stayed productive came to fall under the control of the rich and powerful starting with the discrimination of non-Europeans and then the white working classes. It was a powerful incentive for men like Cecil John Rhodes to sell the colonial dream to the ruling classes back at home.
Boys - Textile mill workers
Many times it has been pointed out that the relatively wealth of many western nations were built on the back of slavery, colonialism and racism. There is very little evidence to refute those claims but the wealth was also built on the backs of the poor and working classes. The sought after goods, whether agricultural or mineral, that found its way back to the factories back home were processed and distributed by people who sometimes worked in conditions that mirrored those of those in the colonies. For the most part, those who benefited most from the growing riches of economic expansion were the ones who were in a position to invest in the first place, that is, those who already had financial means.
Over a number of generations, the general lot of those in industrial societies has improved with a well-established middle class. Some of these people may be descendants of the slaves, indentured labour and fortune seekers but many will be the descendants of later arrivals following in the steps of those who came before and doing exactly the same, seeking a new, richer life.
Poverty, despite attempts to colour code it, knows no race and even in the great rich white nation that is the United States, today, some 10% of non-Hispanic whites are poor, attracting such names as trailer trash, white trash, rednecks etc. The capitalist system that spawned slavery and colonialism still despises those who are on the bottom rank offering that ‘there can be no rich people if there are no poor ones’.
The Results are in: Fail
If I were the boss of me, I would fire me! If every person who has liked the Mixed in Different Shades Facebook page were to generate a dollar profit then I would have earned some 3,900 dollars profit from 18 months of live service – 216 dollars a month! That’s way below minimum wage! If each website visitor generated 10 cents, then the site would be earning less than 10 dollars a day, not good results considering not only the time commitment but the monetary investment as well. To make matters worse, this hypothetical earnings are just that, hypothetical.
There was a great motivator, Jim Rohn, who insisted that one of the building planks for success was the regular measurements of results; “measured often to see if you are making progress” http://youtu.be/aUKNKsyR0nI. Looking at what has been achieved in the last 18 months, I have to say that the results are not impressive. Yes, I do have 3,900 Facebook likes but I expected 10,000+, yes, I have made interesting and useful connections that may serve me well in the future. There is no YouTube channel with several ground-breaking videos which remain on the drawing board and the research tour, well that never took off due to financial and personal reasons. To top it all off, the book is not complete!
Am I only realising the predicament I have placed myself into? No, not really, by the time I returned from my ‘holiday’ in August, I owned up to my Facebook fans that I was returning to the job market and the project would now become a project of love, a hobby. The return to the job market has not been the mitigating success either, it has been time consuming and very, very frustrating. A work colleague once assured me that I had the skills and experience to walk into a new job, a fact that is now apparently not coming to fruition.
The decision to start a project like this was the catalyst to a series of major decisions affecting my life in the following months, issues that somehow conspired to sap my attention away from what I had set out to do. This project was to achieve a lifelong ambition to write a book, it was to combine my love for history and science, particularly, genetics and inheritance into a lifestyle of learning and research, travel and exploration. This would be my dream job!
As the year draws to a close, I must admit that the project has been a failure. And yet, a return to a job holds no joy or inspiration for me. In my line of work, it is very easy for the work to impact your life so intently that with other life commitments such as family and health, there is no time for ‘hobbies’, no time for ‘projects of love’. I remember years ago constantly advising a young colleague whose work was suffering from his ‘project of love’ that you cannot serve two Gods at once. MIDS is a project of love, a project in whose aims I still believe in and one that I continue to wish to pursue.
Am I feeling sorry for myself? I don’t think so; maybe more disappointed. It would be nice to make a new year’s resolution that would work out but life is not always like that. Do I or don’t I continue with this? Will this also end up on the scrapheap of the many previous failed projects? Can I be happy with a mediocre MIDS and concentrate instead on a new job?
I have a lot of thinking to do.
Happy New Year and may your resolutions not be as hard as the one I must try to make.
The Deadly Trade
Whole villages wiped out, minor tribes completely erased, civilisations destroyed; millions of people died when the conquerors of the new world arrived with ‘old world’ diseases. There is no doubt that the Americas gained so much in the Columbian Exchange, the term used to describe the widespread exchange of animals, plants, culture, humans between the East and the West, and it was true, sadly, of infectious diseases. The Americas were said to be free of smallpox, typhus, measles, influenza, bubonic plague, cholera, malaria, mumps, yellow fever, and whooping cough, which were common throughout Europe and Asia when the Europeans arrived. However, the sailors, the explorers, the missionaries and later the colonialists also came in contact with diseases that they were too were not immune to.
Cholera patient is drinking oral rehydration solution (ORS) in order to counteract his cholera-induced dehydration
Indeed, smallpox, that bears the brunt of the blame of the disaster that befell the indigenous populations of the Americas, is believed itself to have been brought to Europe by the Moors when they conquered and then ruled Hispania for 800 years. Europe’s ambitions in seeking a sea trade route to the Far East meant trading posts were set up along the coast of Africa and so the Europeans were introduced to African diseases such as sleeping sickness and yellow fever long before they introduced some of them mainly via the slave trade to the Americas. The World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in December 1979 after a long period of vaccination campaigns worldwide. It is the only human disease to have been eradicated though there have been others that have simply disappeared naturally such as English Sweat in 16th-century.
The Americas scenario was repeated in Southern Eastern Asia, Australasia and the Pacific Islands were these first world diseases ravished the populations to such a point that resistance to the invading Europeans was futile.
It is interesting to note that the furores into Africa, especially the North and East coast and Central Asia did not bring about such large scale deaths. This is probably because many of the infectious diseases may have affected humans in these parts for long periods of time and due to the fact that trade between these parts of the world had been going on for so long that immunity had spread over a large area. A notable exception is Cholera whose main symptoms are diarrhoea and vomiting caused by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by an infected person. Originally confined to the Indian subcontinent, it spread to Russia in 1817, then to Europe and then to North America by 1834. It is now has become one of the most widespread and deadly diseases affecting 3-5 million people and causing over 100,000 deaths a year mainly in the developing world where good sanitation is an issue.
This is not to say that people in Europe, North Africa and Asia did not die from many of the diseases, for example smallpox accounted for 400,000 deaths a year in Europe during the 18th century, but that there was better resistance in the population. Despite this there have been many instances of epidemics and pandemics such as the seven cholera pandemics in the past 200 years.
For the sailor and the intrepid explorer, scurvy was the first curse to overcome. Long periods at sea without fresh fruit and vegetables led to open, suppurating wounds, loss of teeth, jaundice, fever, neuropathy and death for many. It is estimated that over 2 million sailors were lost to scurvy between the 14th century and the time that many navies introduced a means of supplying the missing Vitamin C in the 17th Century. Even the great explorers, Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan lost many of their seamen to this scourge. The British Royal Navy is regarded as the first to eradicate scurvy in the 1790s by the introduction of lemon juice to sailor’s diets.
It is really when the Europeans began to trade with and explore tropical and sub Saharan Africa that previously unknown infectious diseases were discovered. West Africa became known as “the white man’s grave” but even that did not stop the march of colonisation though it did lead to efforts being made to control and manage the diseases, at least in European populations.
One of the African diseases is Yellow fever (slang term “Yellow Jack”) which is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by the bite of female mosquitoes. . It is believed to have been introduced to South America because of the slave trade in the 16th century. However, there are some claims that it existed in the Americas before the age of discovery. In the early days of exploration and colonisation, an outbreak of yellow fever would kill 100% of the Europeans it infected whilst many healthy Africans would survive it. Still today 90% of the world infections happen in Africa and it causes 30,000 deaths every year in unvaccinated populations. Being a tropical disease, yellow fever has remained within the world’s tropical zone excluding Asia.
A female mosquito while she was feeding on a human host, thereby, becoming engorged with blood.
Another one was Malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals. It is a disease many people connect with Africa and that is because it is widespread and causes so many deaths on the continent. However, malaria was known to the Europeans and the Asians for centuries with the 1st recorded case appearing in China in 2,700BC. Malaria was so common in Rome that it was nicknamed the ‘Roman fever’ and is suspected to have played a role in the downfall of the empire. Today, it is estimated that malaria results in nearly one million deaths annually in the sub Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
The tsetse fly transmitted sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease of people and animals which is very widespread in sub Saharan Africa, covering about 37 countries and 60 million people. Some 48,000 people are said to have died of it in 2008 but it is believed that many cases go unreported. Sleeping sickness is believed to have by spread over large areas of Africa by the Arab slave trade in the 14th century.
The Europeans appear to have been lucky in that many of the new infectious diseases they discovered in Africa, could not be exported back home due to their tropical and sub-tropical nature. It affected those who chose or were forced to settle on the continent. However, the Americas did trade the Europeans a particularly virulent type of syphilis or the “Great Pox” though there are some scientists who believe that syphilis was present in the old world prior to that but went unrecognised.
Generally, many believe that it was brought back to Europe on one of Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the New World. There is evidence suggesting that the syphilis strain brought back from the Americas evolved in the European environment making it so much more deadly. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection but it can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or at birth. The first recorded outbreak of the disease in Europe was in 1494 in Italy during a French invasion and it went on to become a major killer from the 14th to the 17th century. Today it affects some 12 million people with more than 90% of cases in the developing world. The non-lethal but disfiguring syphilis-like pinta is a human skin disease endemic to Central and South America and would have affected explorers, traders and missionaries in those regions too.
Those who settled in the Americas would also have been affected by Chagas disease which is a tropical parasitic disease transmitted to humans and other mammals by a type of bug, contaminated food and sometimes from mother to child in pregnancy. Today, Changas disease affects millions of people in Latin America a few hundred thousand in the USA and Spain and causing about 20,000 deaths a year.
In here lies the history lesson that should warn us about the dangers of the transmission of disease. In today’s world, it so much easier for infectious diseases to spread and the recent cases of HIV/AIDS, SARS, bird or avian flu and swine flu are just examples of the dangers we face even in today’s world. There are many more serious diseases that have the potential to become widespread pandemics and our common humanity means that any fatal disease that develops and is transmitted has the potential to virtually wipe the whole human race of the planet.
Having No Colour
Queen Two on Tun Hwa South Road on Taiwan Pride 2005 including a young lady with albinism as a participant
Recently in the news, there was a story of an African couple who conceived a white baby. To many at first, the mother must have cheated on her spouse but later many believed the child to be an albino. However, this appeared not to be the case. The baby born to the Tshibangu family is said to have a slight genetic effect due to inheriting a set of genes from the parents that accumulated into a lighter, whiter skin tone. It is believed that 12 different genes influence skin colour. It is also possible that both parents have had European ancestors that they may be unaware of and this may have caused a throwback. This is not the first time that a similar case has come to the press’ attention, in 2010, there was another case within a Nigerian family but in that case albinism was not ruled out as it is the most common recessive disorder in Nigeria.
Albinism is a disorder from birth caused by the absence or a defect in the enzyme that helps in the production of melanin that colours mainly the skin but also the eyes and hair. It is recessive in that both parents must carry a copy of the genes and pass them onto the offspring for it to have a visible effect. The effects range from total lack of melanin to the colour of a pale white/European individual.
Speaking to a number of laymen, many believe that albinism is much more prevalent in black people particularly Africans. This is interesting as in popular culture, the ‘evil albino’ such as Silas in the book ‘The Da Vinci Code’, Zao in the James Bond movie ‘Die Another Day’ and the twins in the movie ‘The Matrix Reloaded’, are not portrayed as racially black people. The observation that albinism is most common amongst Africans is actually correct for type 2 of Oculocutaneous albinism.
An albino girl from Papua New Guinea
There are two types of albinism, Oculocutaneous which affects skin, eyes and hair colour and Ocular albinism which is predominantly eye colour. There are four types of Oculocutaneous albinism of which type 2 is the most common and affects about 1 in 36,000 people regardless of race. However, amongst black populations, it affects 1 in 10,000 African Americans but is as high as 1 in 3,600 in Central and Southern Africa. Type 3 a lesser form which results in red hair, reddish-brown skin and blue or gray eyes appears to affect only black people of Africa and New Guinea (1 in 8,500). Type 1 albinism rarely affects black people but affects about 1 in 40,000 of other populations.
As in all societies, being different can be dangerous. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa where they are most prevalent, albinos have been on the receiving end of dangerous belief systems. In Zimbabwe, belief that sex with an albino woman will cure HIV is reported to have led to rapes and subsequent increase in HIV infection amongst albinos. In Central Africa, particularly in Tanzania, which is believed to have the highest population in the world, albinos have been killed and maimed for witchcraft. Kenya, the Congo and Burundi have all had witchcraft induced murder cases.
What is happening to the Albinos is a stark example of how being different combined with the lack or misuse of education can combine to lead people into doing horrendous things to each other. This is true of all societies and all prejudices including racism. Education is the key to eradicating such evils from the planet.
Is ‘Arab’ A Race?
Recently, in the last few chapters, I have mentioned the large Arab trade links that formed the centre of the infamous Silk Road or Silk Route. The Silk Route is the term used for a series of trade routes that connected Asia particularly India and China to Southern Europe and North and East Africa. Being the centre of such a big trading network meant that the Arabs spread far and wide but also meant that many foreigners came to their land.
This part of world is no stranger to being the centre of an important route. It is believed that Homo Sapiens, modern humans, left Africa through the Arabian peninsula to take over the rest of the world. The relative long period of human settlement that occurred in the Middle East meant that it became, arguably, the cradle of civilisation.
Tariq ibn Ziyad conquered Hispania in 711 CE
The origins of the term Arab are hotly debated and may be a corruption of a name of a certain people who lived within the region and then was later applied to all peoples from the Middle East. The term is panethnic that means it refers to a group of separately identifiable ethnicities including the Berbers and the Moors. The Moors are Berbers from the Maghreb (Western North Africa) region. The Berbers were historically spread over large areas of North Africa, west of the Nile and unified by the Berber language and identifying with Berber heritage. The presence of the Arabic language and Islam is the result of the long process of Arabisation of Northern Africa. It was a famous Berber general, Tariq ibn Ziyad or, in Spanish, Taric el Tuerto (Ta`ric the one-eyed), who lead the Islamic Moorish conquest of Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain) in 711 where they ruled for about 800 years. The Barbary Pirates or Brabary Corsairs who raided the European coastlines, mainly the Western Mediterranean, in the 16th century for white slaves as part of the Arab slave trade were also Berbers.
Islam’s allowance of multiple wives and concubines for rich and powerful men has meant that women from other lands, for example, slave women, had children from Arab men. In addition, Arabs follow the practise of hyperdescent, where the child takes on the status of the father. That means that any mixed race children were also regarded as Arab. The Arab traders who settled in foreign lands also made their mark recognisable along the East African coast and sometime resulting in distinct communities such as the Sri Lankan Moors and the Washirazi of Zanzibar in East Africa.
Distribution of Arabic as official language
Like the any racial classification clearly defining who exactly is Arab is complicated, for many laymen, it is peoples from the Middle East, for others it is those who speak Arabian as a mother tongue and to others it is simply Muslims even though there millions of Christian Arabs. Some prefer to avoid the race issue and define it as “one who is a national of an Arab state, has command of the Arabic language, and possesses a fundamental knowledge of Arab tradition, that is, of the manners, customs, and political and social systems of the culture” the definition attributed to Palestinian Habib Hassan Touma.
In many Western societies, the Arabs and the Jews have usually been classified as members of the white race which if anything complicates the definition of those who are regarded as white people. Some people we might regard as Arab such as some Egyptians and some Lebanese do not describe themselves as such preferring their national or tribal affiliations instead.
Trying to decide whether Arabs are a distinct race raises the same questions we can ask for any other race. Looking too closely always leads to a blurring between of the lines and that is the point. Race is a social construct not a biological one. We cannot deny that race is still a large social concern and on that basis, do we need to classify Arabs as a separate race? What do you think?
A Question of Race
Seychellois fisherman with a fish
A reader recently raised an issue with me when on a recent teaser I posted on Facebook regarding the mix of the majority of the Seychellois people. This got me thinking about the difference there is between anthropological definitions and the everyday definitions people use. To make matters worse people, the definition of some terms mean different things to different people. For example, the term Asian in the US tends to be used for Oriental Asian people whereas in the UK it more often used to refer to those who are from or descended from the Indian subcontinent. What about the term Latino? To many of us living outside the Americas, Latino says the brown people descendants of European/Amerindian such as the ‘pardo’ Brazilians and the Mexicans. Attempting to stipulate white Latino or black Latino seems alien to many of us.
One reason for my reader’s objection is that unless we define the lines clearly, we will be unable to tackle the scourge of racism. I disagree; racism is most commonly a prejudice against anyone different to the racist. Whether the subject of the racism is black African Bantu or black African American is unlikely to be an issue!
For a person who is attempting to inform people about the history of racial and cultural mixing in an accessible way, it is difficult sometimes to decide the language to use, too formal and it feels to scholarly and too informal will get my fingers rapped like it was deservedly was by this reader. I have previously tried to define the popular racial terms in the ‘What Is Race, What Is Heritage?’ chapter on the website. Maybe I will start there when discussing racial mixes in future.
Doing what I do, I follow many mixed race forums on and off Facebook and it is not unusual to find people posting mixes in a variety of ways, stating racial, national and cultural terms to identify, for example terms like black/Mexican, white/Korean and German/black. This is because the broad terms like white/European or black/African are of limited use in many discussions of race and I suspect that some terms that were falling out of general use, especially in English, are slowly starting to make a comeback, terms like Mulatto and Mestizo and relatively new terms like Hapa and Eurasian are being used more often.
The common strand in all these mixed race forums is very heartening, they are mostly inclusive, embracing all races and cultures and giving anyone long term hope that the ugly side of race may soon be erased and we will all be able to accept all that we are. After all, all humans are mixed and really belong to one race, the human race.
Race (classification of humans)
I woke up this morning with the realisation that some of you, my precious readers, may think that I have given up on the project since I have not done much recently. I will assure you that I have not turned my back on this project but after over a year of investment in time and money, reality has set in and I have had to try and get a job. Mixed In Different Shades has been relegated to hobby/pastime status hence the lack of action.
There is so much more I want to do with the project. This morning, I am working on the chapter about Zanzibar with chapters on the Seychelles, South Africa, Brazil, Chile and Cuba remaining in the 1st Edition. Blog post ideas include a look at Albinism and at the Indian Islands in a similar vein as the African Atlantic ‘Mestizo’ Islands ‘post. I have yet to produce a video and ideas here include one entitled ‘We’re All Mixed’ and a book trailer. As for the tour, I may have to seek sponsorship for that sometime in the future when the chapters are more complete. I am considering adding a few more countries to the 1st edition based on readership support from Mexico and Sri Lanka but I will see how I get on with those already on the cards.
I believe in this project, it is the only one of its kind for mixed people. There are many contemporary mixed projects vying for your attention and I know many of you follow one or more of them but this project’s aim is to expand your knowledge and to explore how we came to be.
I am grateful for the support so far and I sincerely hope that your support will continue. Don’t forget to introduce the project to your family and friends; nothing is more motivating for a writer than knowing that a growing number of people appreciate your work.
The term ‘Assimilado’ was used by the Portuguese colonialists to describe colonial subjects that had rejected their respective native cultures and taken on the more ‘civilised’ Portuguese one. The French colonialists also had an assimilation policy, for example, the assimilated were called évolués (literally, the evolved ones) in Algeria. The other colonialists, especially the British, did not have a specific formal system of assimilation. In return for obtaining such a status, the Assimilado obtained certain privileges not available to the ‘savage’ natives.
Over the years, the requirements to obtain this status grew to include education, religious and language aspects and it is no surprise that many of those who met the Assimilado requirements also happened to be mixed race. The early policy of the race mixing encouraged or ignored by many of the colonial administrations resulted in a number of inter-cultural families where the, usually European, husband determined that the children obtained some education, followed Christian ways and spoke his mother tongue. This conferred some economic and sometimes political advantage to his offspring.
The ‘Assimilado advantage’ can be seen in the history of many colonies such as the Indos in Dutch Indonesia and the Assimilados/mestizos of Portuguese Goa, Angola, Mozambique and the Philippines. The higher education and the language advantage meant that many people from these communities performed better economically, usually gainfully employed in better jobs such as the lower ranks of the colonial apparatus, than the poor indigenous populace.
An extended Coloured family with roots in Cape Town, Kimberley, and Pretoria (South Africa).
Even though the British are said never to have followed this assimilation thinking, they presided over the removals of the Aboriginal mixed race children, known as the stolen generation, with the view of civilising them enough for them to reject their native, heathen ways. Later, both the British colonies of Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe) and South Africa both defined a separate racial class for their mixed population, the Coloureds, who had better rights than the native African citizens, more so in Rhodesia than in South Africa.
Cultural assimilation is said to be the promotion of a dominant culture but in the case of colonial assimilation, it was the minority culture that was being promoted. However, there was also assimilation the other way. Many of the offspring of romantic or other liaisons between European man and indigenous women were not acknowledged and many of these children were assimilated back into the indigenous culture. This happened so often in some societies that there were descriptions given to such individuals such as ‘lost coloured’ in Zimbabwe and ‘disappearing into the kampun (village)’ in Indonesia. For the most part the very earliest, especially in Africa, mixed race children remained in the indigenous societies and occasionally a throwback occurs.
Arguably, the British racist views on miscegenation particularly during the Victorian years appears to have spread to other European countries. In the later period of colonialism, the newly arrived immigrants, many encouraged by their respective governments and arriving with wives and families in tow, were less willing to compete against these local non-European communities. The rules for assimilation were hugely tightened and further opportunities restricted to make way for these mainly working class immigrants.
Arrival of the "Castel Felice" with Indo Eurasian repatriates from Indonesia on Lloydkade in Rotterdam.
Independence for most colonies brought retribution on the mixed race middle classes and in many cases, such as the Goans and Indos, they fled to the ‘mother’ countries to escape the wrath of the people who saw them as part of the colonial structures. In some cases, such as the Philippines and Angola, it was the educated classes that pushed for independence and they remain in powerful political and economic positions in those societies. The ‘coloureds’ of Zimbabwe and South Africa are a bit of an exception and now claim to find themselves on the wrong end of such policies as ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ and ‘indigenisation’.
One thing is for sure, as these colonial middle classes came to Europe they found themselves in the lower social ranks of their new societies, in some cases, even vilified and unaccepted. They, however, form the older immigrant populations and many of their offspring now contribute to the growing mixed race populations of many European nations.
In Search of Pastures New aka the Poor Man’s Burden
Peasants in Finland
Say you were unlucky to be born a peasant prior to the Industrial revolution but after the decline of Feudal Europe and you tried hard to see what the future held for you, you might have been not very encouraged by what you saw. You were likely to see that you would spend the rest of your life like your parents before you and their parents before them, working hard but living in perpetual poverty. If you were an ambitious and clever person you might have realised the established class systems in your country of your birth would forever restrict your place in society and the only escape was to move somewhere else. Being poor would mean that the only resource you had was your labour and so you might have considered selling your labour for a pittance in return for the opportunity to start again somewhere else in the world. Somewhere you would have the chance to change what fate seems determined to hand to you.
If that was the case, then you would not have been the only one. In return for passage to the new worlds of the Americas, food, clothing and shelter, millions of poor people sold themselves for a limited period between 5 and 7 years into virtual slavery in a system called indentured servitude. Unlike traditional slavery, the employer owned the contract, not the person, which they could trade. However it was not unknown for indentured servants to be mistreated to the point of death in some cases. At the end of the contract, the servant got a small severance package that may have been land or money allowing them to start a new life as free people in their new homeland.
Indentured labour is one of the primary means by which the European populations in the new American colonies were increased and later on was one of the major reasons for the wide racial mix that exists in the Americas and the Caribbean. Only the transatlantic slave trade had a similar impact on the racial makeup of this part of the world.
In fact it was the transatlantic slave trade and to a smaller extent, the Industrial Revolution that led to a drop in the first wave of the indentured labour trade. Starting in the 1770s, the Industrial Revolution increased the incomes of the working classes, in Western Europe at least, which meant that labourers were less likely to enter into contracts, preferring to pay their own way into the new world. At the beginning of the slave trade, slaves were relatively expensive and indentured labour less so especially considering that many of the labourers came with farming and labour skills that had to be taught to the newly arrived slaves. The increasing European incomes meant that indentured labour took up the more skilled tasks and the slaves formed the ‘muscle’ of the labour market. However as indentured costs rose and second generation slave population grew, it became cheaper to use slaves until the abolishment of slavery in the British Empire in 1833.
Marseille naval museum Steam ship Europe.
In 1838, after the forced ‘apprenticeship’ period foisted on the ex-slaves, labour became an issue in the slave dependant colonies and there was a renewed growth in the indentured labour trade. The difference this time is that it was mainly Indian and Chinese labourers that filled the gap. The result of this renewed immigration, described in my post ‘Coolies – Racism, Tradition Or Culture?’, is a fairly large Asian, mainly Indian descendant population, on many Caribbean Islands and in Northern South America, namely Guyana and Suriname.
In both waves of this type of immigration, it was mainly men who made up the bulk of the labourers which meant that some men married either local or other immigrant partners, many of whom would be from another race or community. Later on in the second wave, efforts were made by legislation to include more female servants which reduced the racial mixing that the labourers partook in ensuring they remained distinctive communities in their new adopted countries.
In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ which in Article 4 stated “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”. Indentured service is considered a form of servitude and it would be nice to say that this system does not exist anymore but that is just not the case.
Much of the domestic help in the Middle East, many from India and the Philippines, could be considered indentured labour, owing money to those who have facilitated their employment in those areas. There are also many foreign nationals working, some partaking in fringe activities, particularly in the sex trades, in many Western European countries that could be considered indentured servants. Sometimes their situation even borders on modern slavery.
Unfortunately, like our imagined peasant in the first paragraph, many people have very little opportunity to better themselves and as long there is poverty, people will take chances to improve their lot. . It is unlikely that this practise, as with illegal immigration, will stop in the near future.
Coolies – Racism, Tradition Or Culture?
On 4 August 1972, the then President of Uganda, Idi Amin, gave Uganda’s 80,000 Indians 90 days to leave the country. Idi Amin used the Indophobic social climate of Uganda to justify his actions, which were secretly applauded throughout Eastern and Southern Africa. Indians, it was claimed were hoarding wealth and goods to the detriment of indigenous Africans.
Tamil coolie setting out tea plants.
Amin’s actions were just part of a series of anti-Indian sentiment that existed and continues to exist not only in many ex-British colonies but in other colonies such as Suriname where imperial Britain felt compelled to supply indentured labour after it coerced other colonising nations to abolish slavery. From about 1834 and using licenced agents mainly through Mauritius, labourers were imported from the poorer regions of India and then exported with the promise of some pay-out usually involving a plot of land or money at the end of their 5 to 7 years contract. Up to 1932, an estimated 28 million Indians left India to work indentured labourers.
Labourers were not the only manpower needed in the British Empire, there was also a need for educated people in the lower ranks of the imperial civil service, banking and other commercial operations not readily available in other Britain’s colonies. The Indians came to inherit the lower middle classes in many of these countries which may have, encouraged by the imperialist racism, led them to perceive themselves as coming from a more advanced and ‘civilised’ society than those of the newly adopted country. Many Indians who remained after their service contracts used their trading traditions, their small contract pay-outs and contacts back in the homeland to set themselves up in business which funded further immigration swelling their ranks and education in more lucrative trades such as medicine and law. The Indians have been very successful in this strategy coming to virtually monopolise many business sectors, up to 90% in the East African economies.
The Indian experience is mirrored by the Chinese diaspora that was also swelled by the indentured labour market. Fuelled by poverty, the Chinese labourers, mostly from the Guangdong province, found themselves dispersed mainly throughout the rest of Asia but also in substantial numbers in the Pacific Islands, Australasia and the Americas. Sinophobia raised its head early in the USA where the cheap labour was being used to lay railroad tracks and the prejudice grew in other countries such Australia, United States, Canada, and New Zealand even as late as the mid-20th century. Even in today in places such as Tahiti, the Chinese community finds itself the brunt of racial rhetoric.
Like the Indians, the Chinese have been quite successful in dominating the commercial sector in many countries, for example, despite making up only 1% of the Philippines population, they control some 40% of the private commercial sector
Typical Chinese Coolie before and for some time after the American occupation
It is quite telling that the innocent term ‘Coolie’, a historical term for manual labourers or slaves from Asia, became a racial slur with the rising racial discrimination against Indians and the Chinese. The discrimination faced by these communities reinforced their cultural and religious traditions especially regarding family and marriage that meant they continue to exist as a separate and identifiable, usually minority, communities within many countries though in some, particularly in the Caribbean and South America such as Trinidad, Suriname and Guyana, Indians make up a sizeable percentage of the population. Their relative good wealth, their customs and their perceived ‘advanced, more civilised’ attitude contributes to a stereotyping of racial superiority which does lead to strained racial relationships with the indigenous and other immigrant communities in their adopted countries.
Nowadays, the inward isolation of these two communities leads to accusations of racial favouritism which excludes other groups from entering and participating in commercial sectors. This, on the surface, appears to be a good case for assimilation of immigrant populations and there is no doubt that many Western countries are favouring this route as opposed to multiculturalism previously championed and now falling out of favour in Britain.
Is assimilation really the answer to such racial dilemmas? Both communities have also enriched our lives for example with their food which would not have happened had they been assimilated. Is it the traditional systems, such the Indian caste system, of these communities that determine their relative isolation from the rest of the populace and not necessarily racist attitudes? Even under multiculturalism many of those traditions are being slowly eradicated particularly in Western societies as third and fourth generation offspring embrace the societies they live in.
What are your thoughts?
The Tour is Postponed
As you have probably worked out from the silence, the tour has not happened. Due to various reasons including financial ones, the tour has been postponed. It is difficult to see the tour happening as I was initially planning with what is going on in my life. The project has failed to deliver the kind of income I had hoped and so it may be that I will be re-entering the job market in the near future. MIDS will then become a part-time project and the tour will happen in drips and drabs over the next few years unless the project suddenly becomes profitable.
Whilst very disappointing, there are other things happening in my life that make up for it and I still have great hopes for MIDS over the long term. For now I will continue growing the site, doing the research and reaching out to new readers; watch this space.
More on the Tour
Well here we are on the 1st of March and I know should be somewhere else on this amazing planet. Originally I was meant to start the MIDS Tour at the end of January, then the middle of February and now the plan is before the end of this month. The Christmas holidays, my marriage separation and other personal matters have kept me not only from finalising the tour arrangements but also to a lack of solid production for the project.
This project is not the sole reason why I have decided to travel (see here for personal reasons) and it would be hard to justify it if it was. It is really unlikely that I would be able to get thorough ground based research in the short period I intend to stay in each country but it will hopefully allow me to access the research and writing done so far, to observe the current social environment and to inform decisions about the countries that would provide interesting material for the first of the documentary series when we get that far.
The longer I stay here, the more I lose from the tour budget and so some places may not be visited at all, unless some form of income is forthcoming either from short term work or from the project itself. So far, the Pacific Islands and the more expensive countries such as the Seychelles are the main casualties. On the other hand I intent to ‘pass through’ some other countries that are not on the tour list but hopefully will make for some interesting blog posts. For example, I intend to start the tour in Australia where, for example, a recent press article ‘Everyday Australians make multiculturalism work’ seems to go against what many people think about Australian racial relations. Obviously I intend to blog on other aspects of the countries I visit.
There will be no expensive hotels and plush food for me – travel arrangements are not quite backpacking, I’m too old for that – but more like ‘vagabonding’. I have had some `couch warming` offers from friends and family (who seem to have managed to stretch themselves all over the planet) and I hope to find many more friends through the project who even if they don’t offer accommodation or food, will help me find cheap, clean and safe places and maybe a tour or two J.
Once I start travelling, I will be leaving behind all the distractions that keep me from writing and exploring this wonderful aspect of the human experience and I have high hope that not only will I learn so much myself but that so will all my readers.
MIDS 6 Month Review
Today is my birthday and just over a year and a month ago I handed in my 6 months’ notice to resign and it is over 6 months since I released ‘Mixed In Different Shades’ on an unsuspecting world. Now would be a good time to stop and review the situation. I must admit I expected to be in a better position with the project than I am now.
I set a target of 15,000 fans on which I will approach an established publisher as proof of an adequate market for works such as this and I was hoping to be generating a little income to contribute to at least living expenses on the ‘tour’. So far I have achieved over 3,600 fans gained mostly by pay per click advertising and have achieved next to zero income.
However despite the disappointment, the tour will go ahead since the project is not the only reason why I want to travel. The continued project’s growth and my deep fascination with the subject matter mean that I will continue to run Mixed In Different Shades and will continue to try and grow the fan base, the website traffic and the income stream. I will aim to review the situation again in 3 months.
I thank all who have so far encouraged and supported the project and look forward to the next three months with much hope.
African Atlantic ‘Mestizo’ Islands
Writing the chapters on the islands of Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe off the West coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, I was struck by the fact that the islands were said to be uninhabited when discovered in most cases by the Portuguese. My research into Zanzibar and other Indian Ocean islands made this seem unusual so I took a little detour and looked at the other islands off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic.
Eastern Atlantic Islands
Most of the islands were indeed reported on discovery as being uninhabited. The result of this is that many of these islands now have a mixed population due to European settlement and the importation of slaves and/or workers from mainland Africa. Whilst on some of those islands this has resulted in a majority ‘mestizo’ population in others such as the Azores and Madeira that is not the case, at least on the surface. It would appear that either the slave population was small or there was a large settler population on the two island states. Either way, the mixed members of the population have been assimilated into the Portuguese ethnicity. In Azores, mtDNA studies have determine that some 13% of inhabitants have sub-Saharan and about 4% have Arab/Berber ancestry.
A little further south and much closer to the African coast, the Canary Islands did have an indigenous population thought to have originated in the Arab/Berber communities on the mainland. Today, this Spanish enclave does not have a discernable mixed race population though like the rest of Europe, multicultural pairing are very likely considering the sizeable Arabic and Latin American presence which is said to number around 100,000 individuals. The islands proximity, like the Azores and Madeira, to Europe means a high level of migration from Europe is maintained.
Further south are the Cape Verde islands which I have covered in a chapter. Needless to say, the majority of the population is of mixed ancestry.
The Bissagos Islands very close to the continental shoreline in Guinea-Bissau did have an indigenous population that due to its trading and naval power kept the Portuguese out until 1936. Only twenty of the 18 major islands and dozens smaller ones are inhabited. The late colonisation of the islands suggests a limited, if any, racially mixed society.
In the Gulf of Guinea, two of the islands of Equatorial Guinea were inhabited; Bioko which currently has a population of 124,000 most of whom belong to the indigenous Bubi people and Corisco, originally settled by the Benga people and now said to have a majority ‘mestizo’ population which only numbers in the hundreds. Corisco was acquired by Spain in 1843 via some arrangement with the then King. Bioko and the other island of Equatorial Guinea, Annobón were passed to Spain in 1778 as part of an exchange in which Portugal received territory in Brazil. Annobón was also apparently uninhabited and today’s inhabitants are of mixed Portuguese, Spanish, and Angolan descent. Early anti-Spanish sentiment and isolation from mainland and its proximity of São Tomé and Príncipe has meant the island has maintained its Portuguese character including its main language which is a Portuguese creole. Spanish remains the official language and is also widely spoken. The other islands of Equatorial Guinea are the tiny islands of Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico which are to this day sparsely populated.
São Tomé and Príncipe is also covered in one of the MIDS chapters. It has a majority mestizo population.
Further out into the Atlantic are the British controlled islands of Ascension Island and Saint Helena, debateable about whether they should be included in this post. Ascension Island has no indigenous or permanent population and has historically had little appeal for passing ships except for collecting fresh meat. Saint Helena was uninhabited when discovered by the Portuguese in 1502. It is one of the most isolated islands in the world but with an abundance of trees and fresh water encouraging settlement. A British naval station established to suppress the African slave trade was based on the island and some 15,000 freed slaves were landed there in the 1840s though many did not remain for long, returning to mainland as opportunity arose. The population is currently around 3,800 down from a high of over 9,000 in the early 1900s; 50% of the population is African, 25% is Chinese, and a further 25% is White British. What is not clear from the statistics is how many of the ‘black’ population is actually mixed taking into account British ex-colonies’ tendency to record non-white, non-Asian people as black as happens on the other side of the Atlantic in the Caribbean.
Apart from the habitable status of these islands, another striking difference from the Indian Ocean islands is the noticeable lack of the Arab influence. Granted the Arab influence may have been limited in earlier times depending on whether you regard Berber people – who include the Moors – can be regarded as Arab but they were a sea faring people eventually occupying the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain) for some time. There is some recognition that the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands, prior even to the indigenous Guanches, may have been Berber in origin and that Arabs may have visited the Cape Verde islands to extract salt from the salt pans. You will notice this difference that when I write about the Indian Ocean melting pot soon.
You may also notice the use of the Mestizo term rather than the more correct term of Mulatto which was originally coined for an African/European mix. The Portuguese appeared to have avoided the Mulatto term in its African colonies probably due to its negative connotations whilst still using it in the Americas, where there may have been a need to differentiate between Amerindian and African mixes.
On Mules and Mutts
Using the word Mulatto to describe a mixed white and black individual in the English speaking world is very likely to be met with some disdain, if not downright outrage. This is because most people believe that the word’s origins are said to derive from the old Latin word for mule. There is some argument as to whether this is in fact true since the Arabic word ‘muwallad’ meaning ‘of mixed ancestry’ is a possible candidate and may have been imported into the Portuguese and Spanish languages with interactions with the Arab world particularly the Moors. Outside the English speaking world both Mulatto and Mestizo seem to be interchangeable and acceptable.
It is hard to work out why the mule generates such objection. These animals are described as “more patient, sure-footed, hardy and long-lived than horses, and they are considered less obstinate, faster, and more intelligent than donkeys”. They have been bred for centuries for those very traits and have contributed greatly to the development of the human condition. Maybe the objection is because they tend to be infertile due to the fact that horses and donkeys are different species, but a fact that is not strictly true as a small percentage of females can be fertile. The fact the mixed humans can breed should suffice to counter any hint of infertility.
Mixed race US President Obama’s comments about being a mutt and describing African American people as a sort of ‘mongrel race’ raised more than many eyebrows even though he used the terms in a non-derogatory manner. Mongrel and mutt mean the same thing and are mainly used in a friendly, affectionate manner more than as a derogatory slur. The objection may stem from the fact that there is the incorrect assumption that mutt refers to the offspring of two purebred dogs, which is correctly, a crossbred dog. It is the purebred and the crossbred that is unusual as they are specifically bred by humans for particular traits. Mutts are generally regarded as more social, healthier, cleverer and tend to live longer than purebred or crossbred dogs; traits not unlike those claimed for mixed race individuals due to what is known as Heterosis or hybrid vigor.
Whilst I have yet to see a case of mulatto or mestizo used as an insult, I admit that mutt or mongrel can and have been used as such but then so can many other words. The word ‘coloured’ was originally was a polite way to refer to non-white people and its use in the UK in such a manner still occurs, although only by elderly people, but morphed into an unacceptable term in the US and some parts of the Caribbean. The term is proudly claimed by mixed race communities in Southern Africa where the term kaffir is very derogatory, as bad as the word nigger in the USA. Kaffir which is an Arabic term for ‘non-believer’ is proudly borne by a mixed ethnic group in Sri Lanka.
The word nigger is a case in point about the metamorphosis of racial terms. It is now being used in a different context within the African American community itself. In fact, it is used within the community in a derogatory manner as well as a general reference to American black people. It has yet to get to the point that it is acceptable for non-black people to use it in this manner, though.
I once believed that French did not have derogatory words. It was the manner in which the word, like dog, was said that determined whether it was intended as affection or as an insult. As internationalisation occurs, it is worth remembering that other countries and languages may not have the same hang-ups about some words that we do. I read a great quote the other day, “It is not what you are called that matters, but what you respond to.”
As for the mules and mutts, I think there are worse creatures to be called than after them.
The ‘One Drop Rule’ Mentality
Among many black people in the USA and in the UK, there are many who criticise mixed individuals for claiming to be mixed instead of black. I regard that as an inferiority complex brought on by a slave mentality. Many justify their criticisms with the fact that ‘society’ see mixed people as black and so mixed people must ‘accept’ that classification. In other words ‘if massa say you is black, you is black’. I don’t think so and just to make sure it is understood, mixed people are not white either. I find that worrying that so many people still see themselves as inferior simply on the basis of their outward appearance.
Contrary to popular belief only the USA implemented the one drop rule. Even South Africa during apartheid and Zimbabwe during UDI had other means of determining the race of an individual which sometimes led to members of the same family being classified differently. The most famous South African test was the pencil test where a pencil inserted into the hair and would be used when there was question as to the racial classification of the individual. Even the racist Boers understood that many of them would have some indigenous ancestry. Prior to the adoption of stricter one drop rule in the USA there was a limit to how many generations back was of importance to an individual’s classification. In Virginia, for example, more than one-sixteenth Amerindian blood was required to be classified non-white due to the fact that many whites claimed to descent from the Amerindian Pocahontas of the colonial era.
The one drop rule is a hypodescent system, that is, it categorises the offspring of any inter-racial mating as that of the inferior race. This is opposed to a hyperdescent system such as practised by the Arabs during Islam’s spread across North Africa and Southern Europe where mixed children, including those with slaves, were elevated to the father’s class. Hyperdescent is the system of choice for most Latin Americans sometimes resulting in classification issues in the USA. On the other hand, mainly non-Latin West Indian societies with its large UK immigrant descendant population seem to have adopted the hypodescent attitude from their northern neighbour.
Both these systems do require a belief that some races of people are superior and others are inferior. If you are a supporter of this one drop mentality, you have deeper issues to worry about than what I decide to classify myself as.
We Won’t All Be Brown
Maybe it is because I have started on this project that I am sensing a growing awareness from mixed race people in the UK, the US and other places in Europe. Whilst this is all good, there are some things that are being said by mixed race people that make me uncomfortable to say the least. Things like ‘mixed women are the most beautiful’, ‘mixed kids are the cutest’ and the one I particularly dislike is the statement that we will all be ‘brown’ (used here as a proxy colour for all mixed race individuals) in the future.
In my opinion, it is always dangerous to claim or give the impression of being better, prettier, nicer and cuter. It is from that sense of pride that injustices arise. The racism in the Dominican Republic is an example of that. That same pride is also from where your enemies are likely to attack. What would scare a white extreme racist more than the thought that his precious country will be filled with brown people? Will he not react and try to discourage any racial mixing and more non-white immigration, sometimes with extreme violence? What about the people, including non-whites, who insist that just one drop of non-white blood makes you the non-white parent’s race as in the ‘one drop rule’? These are the responses of people under perceived attack from miscegenation.
The truth of the matter is that everyone is mixed already – yes, everyone. Most people, though, think in terms of the sort of accepted racial categories when determining who is mixed. If you have been paying attention, you will know that there are countries around the world that can claim large or even majority ‘brown’ population such as the Dominican Republic and Brazil. However to get to such a large population, the racial mixed race has to achieve enough of a share of the population that people of mixed race are as or more likely to marry another mixed race person as opposed to mixing with someone from one of the parent’s races. Anything other than that and assimilation starts to take place.
Assimilation? For example, if I am white and I marry a black person in a predominately white society, my children will be mixed. If my children marry white people, more likely since we are in a predominately white society, their children will be mixed but more likely to be more white than brown. If those children then also marry whites then my great grandchildren will be practically white. How many further generations before my black wife is forgotten and my descendants see themselves as whites? Assimilation might explain some of the racial classification claimed by many in countries where you would expect different – like Puerto Rico, maybe?
There are countries in the world where a minority mixed race community exists, for example Zimbabwe and South Africa. In South Africa, in the Cape region, the mixed race people, known as coloureds, have gained sufficient traction to be the majority ethnic group. Taken as a whole with the rest of South Africa, they only make up just over 8% of South Africa’s population. The Southern African coloureds, most like other minority mixed communities around the world, exist because there was a social or political system in place that made it unlikely for members of this group to mix with other races. These allowed them to sustain a small, slow growing but visible minority. With the removal of these restrictions at independence and with the end of apartheid, it will be interesting to how much longer these communities continue to exist as communities. Zambia and Malawi’s population seem all but integrated as there was only a small colonial presence in those countries.
Research at the UK’s Kent University has revealed that there is evidence of a growing consciousness and interest in mixed race identities among 18-25 year olds in Britain but cannot yet speak of a coherent or unified mixed group or experience (http://www.kent.ac.uk/news/stories/mixed-race/2010). This will be true of most of the European and possibly the Northern American experience. It is more than likely that many of these young people will marry someone from one of their parent’s races as they will likely be a member of that community. Just as some families start to assimilate, other will experience a little mixing due to the growth inter-racial marriages going on. But even with that the percentage of UK people identifying themselves as being of ‘mixed race’ is expected to grow substantially from the figure of 1.2 per cent of the population in the 2001 census to as high as 4.2 per cent in 2051. In the States mixed race people make up some 2-3% of the population and in Canada the percentage is lower. Is that enough to create ‘brown’ societies? I doubt it.
Even with the some 30 million Chinese men unlikely to find a Chinese wife in a few years’ time and the 2 million or so more black women then black men in America, the total mixed race population of the world is unlikely to reach tipping point.
So let’s stop acting like we are that special and recognise our place in the survival of the human race by playing our part in the mixing of the genes – that has always been our place in the greater scheme of things, our place in the circle of life.
Working on the Dominican Republic chapter, I was fascinated by the racism in that region. In a nutshell, the Puerto Ricans, from the island just east of the Dominican Republic and whose population mainly self-identify as white discriminate against the Dominicans who mainly self-identify as mixed. The racial discrimination that the Dominicans show towards their fellow islanders, the Haitians, has even been investigated by United Nations who declared that the discrimination is very evident in Dominican Republic society. Haiti whose people mainly identify as black, as most of the other Caribbean islands with large ex-slave populations, has the honour of being the first independent Latin American country and the first black led republic in the world.
Dominican girls at carnival (Click for rights)
All over the world there has been a concerted effort to tackle racism but this does not appear to be something being actively pursued in these countries. Whilst obviously historically influenced, I have to wonder if the continuing racism that is being displayed by these societies is fuelled by illegal and legal immigration. The Haitians forced by abject poverty in their own country seek better pastures mainly illegally in the Dominican Republic. The Dominicans, despite the fact their country having nearly the largest economy in Central America and the Caribbean and has a high GDP for Latin America, seek pastures new in Puerto Rico, many crossing illegally and dangerously across the sea in dubious boats. Some use this as a stepping stone to the USA, where Dominicans form the 5th largest Latin American community, but many also remain in Puerto Rico. Considerable mixed marriages are said to be occurring thus subtly changing the racial dynamic in Puerto Rico.
Deforestation in Haiti which is on the left. (Click for Rights)
The Dominican policy to Haitians – formalised as Antihaitianismo (“anti-Haitianism”) by the dictator Rafael Trujillo who was quarter Haitian and who ruled for 30 years – is interesting considering that the racial mix is what the Spanish termed mulatto, that is, European and African with evidence of some indigenous Taíno mixing as well. The racism appears to stem from the fact that the European mix is Spanish and no thought is given to the shared ancestry on the African side. Though Haiti was effectively mainly a French colony producing some mulâtre offspring, the colony was effectively exploited and slaves made up 90% of the population. The mixed race people either assimilated or joined the exodus that left Haiti at independence.
What is also interesting is that facing discrimination in Puerto Rico and probably in the USA, the diaspora’s probable distain for racism is not being fed back into the Republic with the millions of dollars remitted back each year. It is a fascinating question to ask if any Dominican who has faced racism abroad and has returned home still maintains the racist attitude to Haitians.
I look forward to visiting this region investigating this phenomenon in greater detail.
Fixing the Sins of Our Fathers
I have an English working class friend who likens being working class in previous centuries to slavery and to explain some colonial behaviour by referring back to what was happening in England at the time. Many early British colonialists were working class trying to escape the oppression of the class system back home. Read More on notthenews.net…..
Statistics and A Pinch of Salt
“Women care about the race of their partners far more than men, all things equal (in fact, much of the literature suggests men are not concerned about race very much when you control for other background variables).” (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/10/female-race-consciousness-as-prudence/).
That sounds like a reasonable statement and is based on research findings. In fact if we observe current black women’s view that ‘there is not enough black men’, it would appear to be true…. of Americans. A recent question on the Facebook page made a general observation that more black men date white women than the other way around. I cannot berate observation – many scientists have become unstuck claiming things are not what they seem and then later having to accept that they are. Humans are great observers when we want to be. But again the observation is based on a limited physical and social scope of the person making the observation, the trend is reversed in other parts of the world.
Am I likely to get every blogger, publication and others to try and specify the limit of the scope of their findings, observations and statistics? I doubt it. All I am saying is that when you read some of this stuff, including MIDS articles, be aware of the limitations and the bias, you will be better informed for it.